I felt compelled to tell you how much I enjoyed the layout for the "Retired Racer" story on page 83. There is nothing wrong with the story or pictures, but it is the slant to the pictures and descriptions that I like. I'm glad that someone had the freedom and the gumption to try something slightly different. It's not earth shattering, it's not quantum physics, it's just a nice change-up that adds to the overall appeal of the magazine.
I'm not saying all layouts should be like this, and I really wouldn't care if you never did it again. I just don't think many people would have taken the time to notice or to comment on a layout, and I feel like you should know that some readers do actually appreciate more of the work you do than just the incessant red Jeep stories or the lack of red Jeep stories, whichever is the gripe du jour. Thanks for putting together such an enjoyable publication.
Thanks for noticing, Shawn. You're right, not many people take the time to tell us these sorts of things, and they are greatly appreciated. Our art director, Alan Huber, pours his heart and soul into this magazine just like the rest of us, and he appreciates the comment as well.
Lift Kit Shootout
I have a suggestion. I just got my new issue about lift kits (Jan. '10). How about a lift kit shootout? Pull three or four trucks of the same general year from your readers, friends, or personal fleets that are pretty bone stock. Find a shop that is willing to cut a deal on the installs, or have the kit companies put their kit on the trucks. The owner of the truck would be responsible for the cost of the kit. (I understand that a magazine can't and shouldn't cover the cost, but as an incentive, you could facilitate low-cost professional installs.)
Now you have three or four equal trucks to compare the fit, finish, performance, and ease of install of each kit as well as determine whether the consumer should attempt a shade-tree install. Run the newly lifted rigs over a mix of trails, mud, rocks, and sand, and give people a reason to plunk down their hard-earned money on the most expensive upgrade most of us will ever spend on a daily driver.
I am not talking about a crazy 12-inch-twin-coilover, over-the-top lift, but rather the most popular kind; e.g., 6-inch Chevy 1500, 4-inch Jeep WJ (gotta throw my rig in there), that kind of stuff. You could do one brand/model of truck/SUV per year. This might give the suspension companies a little real-world feedback, testing, or just bragging rights.
I love your magazine and have been reading it form the mid '80s. By the way, it is really amazing how tastes have changed over the past 20-plus years. Remember the covers with the late '70s Fords with the triple/double bed bars and enough KC lights to light up Dodger Stadium, and the tilt beds, and tilt hoods with the blower scoop sticking out? Man, those days seem so far back there. How about throwing some of those retro pictures for the new guys to take a gander over?
Keep up the great work, and never forget to Tread Lightly! It breaks my heart to see all my spots closing on what seems like a monthly basis.
We like your idea and have done such shootouts before. Alas, in this economy even we have to tighten our belts, and the budget needed for such testing is temporarily gone. Even the manufacturers of parts and shop owners themselves are feeling the pinch, and parts and service are sometimes hard to come by. But we will once again do this sort of test around this time next year, so look for it.